Google Pixel 4: First Week Thoughts


Okay, so it’s been about a week since the Made by Google 2019 event released a whole slew of new devices. Stadia, new Pixel Buds, Pixelbook Go, 2nd Gen Nest Wi-Fi, and Nest Mini which used to be called the Google Mini. But the main event and star of the show was the new Google Pixel 4. I was able to attend the event and now I’ve had the Pixel 4 for about a week. Let’s talk about some initial impressions.

First up let’s talk about the design. The Google Pixel 4 this time went in a different direction compared to the Google Pixel 3. The Google Pixel 3 had a two-toned glass back and the camera module stood alone with the flash unit, and of course we had a fingerprint sensor on the back. Now for the Google Pixel 4, we have a much more unique and distinctive look. We lose the two-toned back and have a single frosted matte glass back which is smooth with black brushed aluminum around the phone.

This year we have three colors Just Black, Clearly White, and a new color which is called Oh So Orange. The Oh So Orange won’t be for everyone, but I kind of dig it. The unit Google supplied us with is the Clearly White 4XL. I’m not going to lie, normally I go with the black color for phones, but I kind of like the white due to the contrasting nature of the white frosted glass and the black border around.

Moving past the design let’s talk about some of the features that have stood out to me so far within this first week. First off the Google Pixel 4 has added a display with a 90Hz refresh rate and this has been so smooth so quick. Sometimes a little too quick coming from a Google Pixel 3 XL. The Pixel 3XL was already a smooth experience, but on the Pixel 4, it kicks it up a notch. I found that sometimes it responded so quickly that I’ve had to adjust how I use the device because when I would swipe up or try to make selection, it would execute quicker than my response time.

Another feature would be Face Unlock! Google went all-in with this and made this the only biometric option for the Pixel 4 (no more fingerprint sensor). Good thing for them, Face Unlock is really fast and probably the easiest way to unlock your phone on any I’ve seen and this is in part thanks to Project Soli. Soli is a mini radar chip in the phone. With it, as you put your hand towards the Pixel 4 to pick it up, it’s already turned on the sensors needed for face unlock. By the time you have raised the phone it is unlocked and ready to do, no clicking of buttons or swiping up needed. If I compare this to say the iPhone 11, I have to still swipe up to unlock after face detection. Being able to just pick up the phone and use it once it’s in your hand, it’s a cool feature. But there are some downsides currently. Without the fingerprint sensor, any apps that used the fingerprint sensor as authentication to unlock the app now revert to just the pin code or pattern methods for authentication. Very few apps right now use Face Unlock for their authentication method. I’m hoping this changes in the next month or so to come but we’ll see.

“Soli is a miniature radar that understands human motions at various scales: from the tap of your finger to the movements of your body.”

Project Soli, Homepage

Besides assisting in the face unlock, the Soli radar sensor has been used with what Google calls Motion Sense. This is a new feature and generally, there have only been a few limited scenarios this has been useful right now. Right now I can wave my hand across the screen and can move to the next or previous song playing, or I can snooze an alarm by waving across. I’ve probably used this the most when the morning alarm came on and I waved to snooze it which is great. I do wish I had the option to wave to completely end the alarm versus just snoozing it. It also works with music which I listen to a lot. But most time I’m on the go and waving my hands across while I’m commuting isn’t easier than just touching the button when the phone’s already in my hand.

Okay, let’s get to this camera! Google has done plenty of work this year on the camera. With Pixel 3, the camera was already good and Google has just taken what was good and made it even better with Pixel 4. Night Sight 2.0 has made photos in low light night situations that much better, so much so that you’ll probably won’t even need your flash. And now with astrophotography mode, you’ll be able to capture the stars at night. I haven’t had the chance to try any shots like this yet, but should have some by the time of our full review.

Wrapping up the camera features, I like the new HDR+ with the Pixel 4. No longer do I need to see how the picture came out after the snap, now right from the viewfinder I can see how it will look. Portrait mode has gotten even better giving your photos some DSLR like quality. Now there are some downsides. Google decided not to include an ultra-wide camera and from hearing a lot of the news around the industry a lot of people were disappointed with ultra-wide not being included. However for me, I wasn’t a big ultra-wide picture taker so this news wasn’t much of a loss. Google also this time around didn’t included unlimited photo storage for image in original size and will only offer free storage for “high quality” images meaning reduced size. It will still look good but some will miss the original size option.

To round out the Google Pixel 4 we definitely must mention the Google Assistant, which is much better than it was before and also faster. Assistant now can operate directly on the phone itself making queries to it much quicker, as it doesn’t always have to connect to a data center to pull the information for local to the phone queries. And lastly, Google has released a new application called Recorder. Now, this isn’t a major feature or reason to buy a phone but if you’re the type to take notes, record lectures, or interviews this recorder app is phenomenal! It has the ability to record audio notes, categorize for search later, and even pinpoint when you said certain words in the recording is something very impressive. And all of this is done directly on the device itself, no connection needed! One perfect example of this is this article. I recorded my voice using the recorder app and it can transcribe everything and show it to me once I saved it. I was able to copy and paste all of the text and paste it to our platform for this post. So all I had to do was speak to the phone. I was able to take that and process that in a format that I could use for later.

How often I plan on doing this? I don’t know but it is such a cool and easy feature to use on a Google Pixel 4. So first week down. I’ve always been a Google Pixel fan. I love the Pixels, I’ve used them from the Pixel 1 up to now the Pixel 4. I’ve never really been disappointed with the Google Pixel line and so far I’ve not disappointed with the Google Pixel 4 XL. The Pixel 4 starts at $799 while the Pixel 4 XL will be $899. Stay tuned as we continue using it and have a full review coming!